Natural Foods Merchandiser

Science Beat with Kimberly Beauchamp, N.D., Healthnotes Inc.

Protein in Sports Drink Boosts Exercise Performance
Compared with a carbohydrate-only drink, a combination carbohydrate-protein drink may improve athletes? endurance and help them suffer less muscle damage from intense exercise, reports Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

Carbohydrate beverages provide glucose for the muscles to burn as their energy stores decrease during prolonged exercise. These drinks have been shown to improve exercise endurance, increasing both the length of time until the person becomes exhausted and an athlete?s power output toward the end of a long session. Some research suggests that adding protein to carbohydrate beverages decreases muscle damage and replenishes muscle energy stores after exercise.

The new study investigated the effect of a carbohydrate-only drink versus a carbohydrate-protein drink on exercise endurance and muscle damage in 15 male cyclists. The participants were randomly assigned to drink either 4 ounces of a carbohydrate beverage or 4 ounces of a carbohydrate-protein beverage every 15 minutes while exercising. Each group also drank 24 ounces within 30 minutes after exercising.

The carbohydrate beverage had a 7 percent carbohydrate concentration, providing 2 g of carbs per ounce. The carbohydrate-protein beverage also contained 7 percent carbs, with the addition of 0.5 g of whey protein per ounce.

Exercise consisted of riding on a stationary bicycle at a predetermined intensity until exhaustion, followed by a rest period of 12 to 15 hours. Then the ride was repeated at a slightly higher intensity, again until the participants were exhausted.

Seven to 14 days after the second ride, the participants switched treatments so that the group that drank the carbohydrate-only beverage in the first part of the study now drank the carbohydrate-protein beverage and vice versa. Blood samples were taken during and after exercise to determine the amount of muscle damage sustained during the different treatments.

During the first ride, participants who drank the carbohydrate-protein beverage were able to ride 29 percent longer than those who drank the carbohydrate-only beverage. Results were even more impressive during the second ride; people who drank the carbohydrate-protein beverage rode 40 percent longer than those in the carbohydrate-only group. Tests of muscle damage indicated significantly less damage among participants who consumed the carbohydrate-protein drink than among those who drank the carbohydrate-only beverage.

Adding protein to a carbohydrate sports drink appears to significantly enhance exercise performance and decrease muscle damage after periods of intense exercise. As the addition of extra carbohydrates to sports drinks beyond a certain concentration does not result in improved exercise performance, this finding will benefit those athletes searching for a competitive edge.

A New Treatment for Eczema on the Horizon
Applying a topical cream containing vitamin B12 significantly improves eczema (atopic dermatitis), according to the British Journal of Dermatology.

Eczema is an inflammatory condition of the skin characterized by rashes and intense itching that may be accompanied by swelling, redness, blistering, oozing and crusting. Malfunctions of the immune system may contribute to the development of eczema. Specifically, T-cells (a type of white blood cell) become activated, producing inflammatory substances called cytokines. Cytokines stimulate certain cells in the body to make nitric oxide, which contributes to the redness and swelling associated with eczema. Previous studies have reported that nitric oxide inhibitors can decrease the itching and redness of eczema.

Treatments for eczema aim to control inflammation, decrease itching and manage infections that may occur as a result of repeated skin irritation. Commonly used treatments are not without side effects, however. Topical corticosteroids may cause skin thinning and prolong the healing time of damaged skin. And tacrolimus (Protopic), a newer drug that targets the immune system to control eczema, can cause a burning sensation or itching.

Vitamin B12 inhibits production of inflammatory cytokines and can trap nitric oxide, making it less harmful. The new study investigated the effect of a topical application of a vitamin B12-containing cream on eczema severity in 41 people aged 18 to 70 years. The participants were randomly assigned to apply a vitamin B12 cream (containing 0.07 percent cyanocobalamin, a form of vitamin B12) to affected areas on one side of the body and a placebo cream to affected areas on the other side of the body two times per day for eight weeks. The severity and extent of eczema was rated at the beginning of the study and at two-, four-, six- and eight-week intervals thereafter. The participants and doctors also assessed each treatment?s effectiveness and how well it was tolerated.

For all participants, the extent and severity of eczema were significantly less on the side of the body treated with the vitamin B12 cream than on the side treated with the placebo cream. Both the doctors and the study participants rated the vitamin B12 cream as superior to the placebo cream in effectiveness and tolerability. Only a few mild adverse reactions (local skin irritation) were associated with use of the vitamin cream.

The results of this study suggest that topical application of vitamin B12 is a safe and effective eczema treatment.

Kimberly Beauchamp, N.D., is co-founder and practicing physician at South County Naturopaths Inc.
Copyright ? 2004 Healthnotes Inc.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 10/p. 114, 118

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